Joined: 10 Feb 2009
|Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 7:25 am Post subject: RAIN
|i've never been much of a story writer, other than writing lyrics which seems way easier to me, i think because you can cover everything with abstract meaning and timing. this is the one story i've written, it's about a night almost exactly 8 years ago, it's called RAIN.
Rain, rain, rain. Wasn’t spring meant to bring a sense of renewal? The time of flowers blooming and a casting off of winters cold grip? It was May 25th, 2001 and I felt it might as well be the middle of January. Here I was, another night of being stuck in the hot, sweaty kitchen at Champps, and to make things worse, not one of the few people who’s company I enjoyed were working. Mike, one of the managers, was there. I liked him, but his constant whining always seemed to add hours to the night.
The configuration of the cooking line enabled me to view most of the dinning room and bar. As I scanned out I could see many of the regular customers that were there day after day along with the rest of the people out having a good time eating dinner or just having a few drinks. I despised them all. I felt the same as I believe the caged animals do whenever I am standing there at the zoo, staring at them while they stare back at me. My attitude in general was bad and I knew it, but I didn’t care. Sitting at the bar there were also a few employees that had worked the day shift and were now relaxing among the regulars and customers. One of them was Renee. She was sitting with a couple of guys that looked to be in their mid-forties or so. Regulars I assumed. They seemed to always circle the young waitresses like vultures. She was wearing a grey hooded zip up sweatshirt to cover up her work uniform. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a pony tail and the consistent smile she wore seemed a little alcohol enhanced along with her rosey red checks. Even with the dim light of the bar and the distance between us I could see that sparkle her blue eyes always had. Renee and I had a bond that I have shared with few people in my life. She had a presence about her that was palpable, I am not exactly sure why, but the sound of her goofy laugh, along with that smile of hers and the ability to always cheer other people up even when she was feeling down, was irreplaceable. There was no boyfriend/girlfriend type of thing between us, I was happily married with my second child on the way, and she was the ex of my best friend. Unfortunately, seeing her this night did not help my pissy attitude. Actually it made me feel worse. We had had some petty, unkind words a few days before and had only briefly spoken since.
The dinner rush was beginning, and soon I would be entering the blur that made up the bulk of the nights in the kitchen. The cooking and timing of all the food items together with the other cooks working would make any other thoughts disappear. I hoped Renee would be leaving soon, before this unavoidable part of the night occurred. On her way out she would be walking past the kitchen on her way to the back door that led to the parking lot. I was hoping to time it so that I would meet her there at the door and put an end the meaning less tension between us. As the food orders popped out of the printer, reminding me of ants endlessly coming out of their hole, I was seeing the odds steadily decrease that I would be able to catch her. I was just beginning to be buried in orders when I looked up and there she was. I saw her go past both the cooking line and my opportunity to clear up the dark spot on our friendship. We had no eye contact as she weaved her way through the crowd of busy employees. I had no chance to catch her and at the time I had no idea that I never would.
It ended up being a typical night at work overall. Once again, I had made it through, as always, and the mental stress and dread of the place was never as bad in reality as I always seemed to build it up to. 11o’clock had arrived and down to the changing room I went to get out of my dirty, stinky cooks uniform. It was one of the rare nights that I did not want to head straight out the back door, get into my car, and b-line it home. It was still raining and cold and the length of my day which had begun at 7:00 AM with my dress shirt and tie on, in an entirely different world at Coldwell Banker Burnet, required some time to unwind. I had been working mornings as a Realtor, building my real estate business and spending my nights in the kitchen at Champps. A free beer at the bar was calling my name and as tired as I was I figured one would be enough to give me the touch of fuzziness and relaxation I wanted. I recognized one of the regular customers at the bar. I always enjoyed having a conversation with him over a drink or two, even though I could never remember his name. Just like me, he was into punk music as a kid growing up and we would name all of the bands and shows we had seen. It was amazing how many times we had been in the same place, at the same time, some fifteen years earlier.
Mike, my downbeat manager, was hovering around me at the bar and must have asked me when I was leaving a half dozen times. I didn’t know if he was just bored or what his deal was. The next thing I knew, I heard “Last call”, the restaurant lights went up, and I realized my one beer had turned into three. It was definitely time to go. I said “see ya” to my nameless buddy at the bar and headed for the back door. Again there was Mike, this time standing in the very same place I had attempted to stop Renee some eight hours earlier. “Later on” I said as I began to walk past, but the look on his face stopped me. “I gotta tell you something” he said. ”What the hell does he want?” I was thinking. I knew it was something I didn’t want to hear, probably another problem with his girlfriend I figured. He had intersected the route to my car and even more than usual I was annoyed with him. He said, “Renee was in a car accident.” Just like that, I knew she was gone. As I stared blankly at him, he didn’t have to say anything else, I wished he wouldn’t, but he did. “She didn’t make it….” he began. “What the fuck?” was all I could say or think. I must have said it a thousand times in a row. To him, to myself, to God, to no one, to everyone. I had just seen her. She was full of life. She had never done a bad thing to anyone. She was more thoughtful and caring than anyone I knew. She was young - barely 21 years old, and she had a future. There was no way that it could be true, but it was, and is.
Now it is four years to the day that she has been gone and sometimes it is no more real to me than it was that night, sometimes it is too real for me to comprehend. I truly believe she was an angel. In the short time she spent in this world she made more of a difference that some people that live to be a hundred years old do. Some of her ways, that to me seemed naïve at the time, how she always parted by saying “peace” or the idealistic way she thought every person should honestly care about one another, seem so much more important now. I remember one afternoon that we were standing out in the parking lot at Champps having a cigarette after work. I finished my smoke and flicked the butt. Renee got after me for it and picked it up. I laughed and said “now you have to pick up every one you can see out here or picking up that one is pointless.” The look on her face was of utter anguish. For a second I thought she was going get down on her hands and knees and start picking up the countless cigarette butts all over the place. She was so fun for me to tease, and she knew my intentions were not cruel.
There were some details about that night I learned, it was her uncle and a friend she was at the bar with, not the regulars I suspected. She had two drinks before leaving. The accident happened at about 7:15PM, which was less than a half hour after she left Champps. She had made a stop in Dinkytown and then got on 35W heading back towards her apartment and crashed on the first curve, near the Johnson Street exit. She was alone, in a one car accident. She did not have a seat belt on. I knew she didn’t, she never did. The thought that she would ever need it would have never entered her mind. Why she crashed will never be answered and maybe it doesn’t really matter. All of the questions I have had, my sadness about Renee and her friends and family that go on without her, the anger of my realization that life really is not fair at all, the remorse that I was not able to tell her face to face that a few words were not worth the stress they caused, and finally the forced acceptance that I will not see her in this world again, have resulted in one thought that I have carried with me and it is somewhat ironic that I am sure Renee always knew it; the only thing that is real in this world, the only thing that remains when we are gone, is the time and love we share with the people in our lives.